The frightening future of the entertainment industry

In light of last week’s posts  about the entertainment industry’s effort to enact the legislation called SOPA (here and here), I saw a couple of items early this morning that reminded me that much of the reason that industry wants to out-legislate what it can’t out-innovate is the frightening future they face. And I’m not referring to the intellectual property they own being pirated. I’m talking about the way in which the talent that creates that intellectual property is, more and more, going to jump ship (to continue the pirate metaphor) from companies that attempt to hold on to business models created in the age of I Love Lucy.

Here are the items: First, an article in this week’s New Yorker about YouTube developing new “channel” relationships with content companies — a strategy that is laying the groundwork for original programming from artists, online news organizations and others who can provide a  steady stream of content appealing to a niche audience. According to the author of the article, when the studios and others wouldn’t work with YouTube for existing content (ala Netflix), YouTube developed a strategy to provide creators of programming access to unlimited airtime, rather than the scarce airtime provided them by traditional network and cable channels.

“But what’s the big deal?” you might ask. People are still going to want to watch programming on their big HD TVs and for that, you need cable and networks and the quality they can provide — not YouTube (he said, rhetorically).

Well, according to a worldwide study by Accenture released today, the number of consumers who watch broadcast or cable television in a typical week plunged to 48% in 2011 from 71% in 2009. Accenture says TV is losing ground to other devices – mobile phones, laptops and tablets. (And besides, you can stream video onto those HD TVs in dozens of ways, whenever you want the big-screen experience.)

Bottomline: When it comes to what video programming and distribution will become in the next decade and beyond, we’re about where network TV was when I Love Lucy debuted.

It’s a scary time for the entertainment industry. No wonder they’d like to put off the future as long as they can.

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